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Four Types of Suicide According to Durkheim
According to Durkheim, there are four types of suicide. They are egoistic, altruistic, anomic, and fatalistic. Egoistic suicide occurs when one's degree of social integration is small to a point they feel not well supported by society. An example of John Derrick, an international student, represents this form of suicide. John had just enrolled in the Arkansas University of Science as an engineering student. His first days in the institution were not as good as he thought.
First, Durkheim faced open discrimination from other students and most people in his environment. He always sat by himself and associated with no one after frantic efforts to converse with other students had proved futile. John thought he could manage his challenges with the university management. Upon reporting to the chancellor, the latter dismissed him based on his ethnicity (Atkinson 34).
This situation worsened when the student became physically abusive to a point that he fractured his left arm. This incident eventually led to the stress that affected his concentration. He tried contacting his family but in vain. No one sympathized with his situation including the tutors. He could not take social disintegration anymore. One morning, when taking a shower he hung himself in the washroom leaving behind a detailed letter addressed to the institution and his parents (Durkheim 98). In his letter, he had written, the level of abuse and discrimination is unbearable. I cannot take any more.
Egoistic suicide has several characteristics. First, excessive individualism characterizes egoistic suicide. Secondly, it highly depends on the social integration of a person. The lesser a person is integrated, the higher the chances of death. Lastly, egoistic suicide is inversely proportional to the degree of integration into the religious society (Douglas 5).
The strengths of Durkheim's argument on egoistic suicide are that he substantially defines it and tries to bring numerous studies seeking to determine its causes and effects. In addition, he brings informed approaches by the use of examples and statistical information to expound on the topic. However, Durkheim fails by not giving solutions or recommendations as to how egoistic suicide cases can be stopped or minimized (Atkinson 80).
Altruistic suicide is the opposite of egoistic suicide in that it occurs when one's social integration is too high. Muhamad Malik had been a convinced Muslim until he got radicalized to join a terror group. At the group, he forgot his strong religious teachings and conforms to the destructive doctrines of ISIS. The new environment changes his personality completely to a point that he starts to ignore his entire family and gets deeply rooted into the circle of other group members.
He becomes morally and socially detached from society at large. It should be noted that ISIS is a terrorist group, which plans and attacks innocent civilians (Douglas 54). The group also abducts and demands ransoms. Malik's superiors give him the task of attacking a political rally being led by the president. He agrees willingly to undertake the task regardless of the consequences. The affairs and teachings of the group are more superior to him.
His wife notes something unusual in his behavior and tries to engage him in a conversation. He cries bitterly an indication he is aware of what is about to happen, but he has to accomplish his duty. The following day, he parades as a suicide bomber and blasts the political rally killing dozens of people. This case is an example of altruistic suicide.
Durkheim terms this form of suicide as most common among primitive people. Secondly, in this type, a person sees it as if it is his/her duty to commit suicide. Also, it is socially oriented in that people commit it to prove certain points and capabilities. Lastly, it occurs less in societies that have embraced individual personality compared to those still glued to the collective personality (Jensen 3).
Durkheim's argument, just like in the egoistic approach, takes too much time analyzing the causes and characteristics, but it does not provide possible solutions. The argument is sordid and reliable as it provides an in-depth understanding of altruistic suicide. However, he ought to have provided measures to be taken to minimize such cases of suicide.
Anomic suicide is the third type of suicide. It is highly related to exceptionally low degrees of integration. It is mostly committed in times of stress or immediate change of environment. Victor Cruse has been the manager of Arctic Limited for ten years (Barbagli 54). He joined the company as an intern and later was hired as a junior clerk. He advanced his education while still in the Arctic. He rose the career ladder to the position of chief executive officer. He ran the company with the diligence, commitment, and integrity to it make one of the most profitable businesses in the region. The ownership of the company changed after its sale.
The new management came in and restructured the entire management as well as its operations. Victor lost his position and assumed a much lower rank as the operations supervisor. The immediate change affected him psychologically as it came with many changes including financial cutbacks. Life became unbearable as his new superiors set high production targets for him that he could not meet. His subordinates also contributed to his problems as they always laughed at him (Douglas 8). All these combined amounted to stress and one day on his way home, he sped his car and hit a stationary truck dying on the spot. At the rear seat, there was a detailed letter explaining what led to his action.
Anomic suicides increase during times of financial crisis. The second characteristic is that it takes place after an abrupt social change in which the affected individual loses a sense of worth or takes time to adapt.
Durkheim's argument offers a stable ground and understanding of anomic suicide. He argues that in the world of trade, there is a constant state of crisis. In addition, he argues that industries become an end instead of being a means to achieve an end. Therefore, he says that the rate of suicide in trade and industrial occupations is high. However, Durkheim's argument's weak point is by failing to offer solutions as to what one should do in the event of anomie (Douglas 158).
The last type is fatalistic suicide. It is the form that results from excessive regulation. People often commit this suicide when their lives are kept under extreme rules. Lydia Jones, a young Catholic girl, completed her college education five years ago. All through her life, she was surrounded by overprotective parents. She was neither allowed to associate nor have friends. She always complained of this treatment stating that she was old enough to take care of herself. Her parents ignored her requests. Immediately after finishing school, her parents forced her into joining a Catholic formation school for monks.
She had no option but to join. Once there, the rules were too intense for her to bear. She tried to secure her way out of the convent but in vain. She went to the heights of expressing her disinterest in becoming a monk, but the school's administration did not help her. She felt her freedom unwillingly curtailed and opted to commit suicide to save herself (Agnew & Joanne 2).
Its characteristics include the following criteria; it is highly connected to the feeling of oppression by the norms set by the society or one's environment. In addition, it occurs in the event of excessive regulation. Lastly, it is highly prevalent among slaves or prisoners who fail to secure their release.
Durkheim's argument on fatalistic suicide has its strengths and weaknesses. First, Durkheim clearly describes this form of suicide apparently in a comprehensible manner. However, just like with other forms of suicide, he fails to present solutions to the problems leading to fatalistic suicide. Also, he fails by considering this form of suicide irrelevant in modern society because cases of fatalistic suicide are still high in society (Durkheim 40).
Evaluation of Durkheim's Theory of Suicide (Strengths and Weaknesses)
In the beginning, Durkheim argues that the consistency of suicide rates is a social fact. In my view, this is correct since, in the later discussion, all forms of suicide have some significant connection to social factors. In addition, these social factors are responsible for the extent to which the rate of integration and regulation by moral forces of collective life. On the other hand, Durkheim presents a candid explanation of all the forms of suicide leaving the subject in full understanding. He successfully shows the relationship between altruistic and egoistic suicide, which arises from the respective over-integration and under-integration of the individual society.
In addition, fatalistic and anomic suicides were respectively caused by over-regulation and under-regulation in society (Durkheim 150). The comparison is skillfully done to bring out the perspective of the four types of suicide. Also, his definition of the phenomenon provides a broad scope of death by encompassing negative and positive individual acts. Furthermore, he enhances his argument by basing it on social causes and, therefore, further looking into the social environments such as family, occupation, religious beliefs, as well as a political society.
On the other hand, the theory has various setbacks. Primarily, when looking at the religious beliefs as causes of suicide, he bases his arguments on Christianity only. He overlooks the fact that other religions could also cause suicide. In this view, his theory is biased towards Christianity. Secondly, in the theory, he only highlights, defines, and expounds on the different types of suicide. On the contrary, a good theory should identify and define, describe as well as provide solutions to a particular problem. As evident in his descriptions, he does not provide recommendations or solutions to reduce cases of specific suicide methods (Agnew & Joanne 1).
Social Meanings of Suicide by Jack D. Douglas
Douglas presents an entirely different approach to the meaning of suicide compared to Durkheim's argument. He provides four separate meanings of suicide. First, he defines suicide as a means of transforming the individual's self. According to him, it is the form of suicide where one kills himself as a means of gaining access or release from the cares of the contemporary world and moving into paradise. He connects this form of suicide to the massive cases of people committing suicide due to religious beliefs or groups.
An example is given of the numerous terrorism cases where people kill themselves and others in the name of religion where they are promised that upon executing sinners; they will be rewarded in heaven with 72 virgins as well as a luxurious afterlife. Secondly, he argues that people commit suicide as a means of transforming themselves for others. People use suicide as a means of telling others how profound feelings one has regarding a particular issue (Lester 44).
It is the cause of death to people who are sorry for actions they have committed in the past or in recent times. An example is given of a driver who accidentally hit and killed a woman. The guilt for her death tormented him and after a few months, he could not take it anymore. Despite the numerous appointments with the victim's family and repenting, he did not feel contented. To express his repentance, he committed suicide.
Thirdly, people commit suicide as a means of fellow feelings. In this case, people do it as a means of asking for sympathy or help. It is the case where people try desperately to commit suicide and mostly in public places, hoping someone will notice them and intervene. Mostly, these people do not mean death as in most cases, if no one notices them, they abort the mission or postpone it. An example is given of a Chinese boy who desperately needed his parents to buy a bicycle. However, they had declined his requests, and he resorted to committing suicide in the town center (Durkheim 132).
He went ahead, took a skiing rope, and tied it to a tree. Just before he was about to commit the act, he shouted to attract the publics' attention. His father happened to be in the crown, and they saved him. He was questioned on the motives of his act. He narrated the bicycle story, and the public conducted a fundraiser for him. He went home with a new bicycle. This example explains the form of attempting suicide to seek both sympathy and help.
Lastly, Douglas argues that people commit suicide as a means of revenge. The person places the blame for his or her death on others. In most cases, the victim leaves behind a note accusing others of failing them in one way or another. An example is given of a teenager who committed suicide and left a note accusing his parents of objecting to his love relationship with a woman. He wrote that his parents had consistently controlled his love life (Lester 124).
In both Douglas and Durkheim's arguments, there are significantly noticeable differences in their approaches to suicide. Primarily, Douglas as an interactionist differs from Durkheim, who is a positivist. Douglas begins with the argument that sources of individual behavior can be studied from the external factors of a person. In this light, he argues that people commit suicide for entire elements that are from them. In his argument, he notes that social reality is actively and consciously constructed by people, who do certain things and contribute to the behavior of others.
In this light, the social world is reconstructed daily. In this respect, he criticizes Durkheim that he does not do as he claims when explaining social facts by referring them to other social facts (Legha 200). On the contrary, Durkheim imposes his meaning upon the behavior of others in ways that are unjustified and untestable. The primary argument is that when Durkheim looked at the social world, his theoretical ideas led him to the assumption that one could define particular social facts about the universe.
Secondly, Douglas argues that Durkheim is mistaken in his belief that people could explain human behavior without referring to the consciousness of particular social factors. In this light, Douglas thinks what Durkheim did was just to impose his definition of social reality in the world. He argues that the definition is statistical and theoretical and hence may be valid or invalid due to various factors. First, it may be invalid as it is a convenient assumption used by Durkheim to pursue his preferred way of looking at social behavior. Secondly, he argues that there is a valid definition especially if others impose it.
In addition, this idea can be developed further at the criticism of the facts that Durkheim used to build on his argument. Douglas argued that these facts were things that did not exist in the social world but were waiting to be discovered by sociologists. However, the facts that were used by Durkheim were part of the daily social constructions of reality. In this light, Douglas argues that Durkheim's facts are simple explanations of situations that are constructed by social actors (Lester 44).
Lastly, Douglas's analysis is illustrative in explaining how an interactionist sociologist looks at suicide as a fact. First, society is a product of meaningful interaction between particular individuals. These interactions can be conceptualized as a society for general accessibility. However, one cannot assume that conceptualization is made to exist externally to individuals' social actors. Secondly, to understand the human acts of suicide, one must know its universal definition as given by social actors such as the police (Johnstone 40).
Also, an understanding of the meaning of suicidal individuals would help to understand their actions. Douglas argues that a person who intends to commit suicide attempts to convey suggestive messages to others concerning the meaning of the actions. Mostly, these are situations when one finds suicide notes illustrating their actions (Watkins 120).
Statistics of Suicide in America
The rate of suicide cases has been on the rise since the early 90s. Between 1999 and 2004, the suicide rate increased to 13 percent from 10.5 percent recorded in 1999. The rate of deaths due to suicide has been on the rise despite the significant decrease in deaths from other causes. The increasing trend has been noted in every age group less than 75 years. However, the trend has been high among young people who have recorded high percentages. Girls between the ages of 10 to 14 have been the major victims since their rate tripled over 15 years from 0.5 to 1.7 per 100,000 people (Johnstone 32). The study also notes the number of suicide attempts was high compared to suicide deaths.
In America, nearly 40,000 lives are lost every year due to suicide making it the country's 10th leading cause of death and the second leading killer of persons aged 15-34. Statistics indicate that 90 percent of suicide cases occur to people with mental illnesses. Males working in the army recorded an increase in suicides between 2002 and 2004 as more than 2000 soldiers took their lives.
In addition, 12per 100,000 persons constitute the annual rates of suicide rate as adjusted per age. Secondly, the rate of men dying of suicide is over three times higher often than that of women. Moreover, more than 100 cases of suicide are recorded daily. In the US, male suicides constituted seven cases out of 10 in 2014. Lastly, the number of suicide cases is highest among those in middle age with white men leading in the grid (Johnstone 32).
In addition, in 2014, 19.3 percent of suicide cases were among those aged 85 years and above. The second-highest rate, 19.2 percent, occurred in people between 45 and 64 years. On the other hand, in 2014, 14.7 percent of suicide cases were among whites. Also, 10.9 percent were among the Alaska Natives and American Indians. The Hispanics accounted for 6.3 percent of the suicide cases in the United States. In addition, the Pacific Islanders and the Asians accounted for 5.9 percent of total suicides. Lastly, the blacks accounted for the least cases of suicide having 5.5 percent (Watkins 100).
Suicide rates by the virtue of agenda were also recorded. Psychological stress recorded the highest number of suicide cases with 43.9 percent. Secondly, mental illnesses contributed to 32 percent of suicide cases. Also, financial constraints accounted for 10 percent of suicide cases (Legha 234). The question has been measured using the criterion validity method. The expected outcomes were a full description of suicide using statistical analysis of suicide cases as recorded from various genders, ethnicity, and agenda.